Googles £30 Modular Smartphone Set for January Launch

AraGoogle has named a January 2015 launch date for its first Project Ara modular smartphone.

Speaking at the first of its Ara-focused developer conferences, Google’s head of Project Ara Paul Eremenko said the devices would go on sale at the beginning of next year for around $50 (£30).

The Aras USP is genuinely unique. The handset itself is just a frame, to which users can add modules, held together using electropermanent magnets. This modules allow for much more than cosmetic alterations: the user can choose their own processor, camera and display, as well as adding optional sensors.

The Ara took its initial inspiration from the Phonebloks concept developed by Dutch designer Dave Hakkens, which we initially attracted a lot of scepticism when it was revealed last year. Its now being developed by Googles Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) wing, previously a division of Motorola, which Google held onto after it sold Motorola to Lenovo.

Motorolas legacy is visible in at least one part of Ara, which will enable users to customise the make-up and appearance of their device using a version of the Moto Maker tool it developed for the Moto X.

Theres no tablet equivalent of the Ara on Googles near-term roadmap, according to the official Twitter account, though there is a larger phablet size in the works.

If Google manages to deliver on all its promises with Ara, it could be genuinely revolutionary. Eremenko reckons the device will last users five to six years, because users will be able to upgrade the components – or fix any breakages – by simply buying a new module and fitting it themselves. Speaking as someone whos spent the last couple of days on YouTube, watching complex tutorial videos on how to fit a new display into a smashed Nexus 4, that change would be very welcome.